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Full text of "A history of the life of Amos Owens, the noted blockader, of Cherry Mountain, N.C"

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M. L. Irtlhite 





North Carolina State Library 


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In offering this work to a reading and borrow- 

g public, the Author does not deem it necessary 
make an apology. 

The characters are not creations of fancy, for 

mos Owens at Cherry Mountain and Jerry Bjw- 
lin at his mountain home are much in evidence. 
Partly at the aged, infirm but still alive block- 
ader, this work was undertaken, and partly at our 
own inclination. 

He did not feel adequate to the task, and was 
handicapped by many difficulties. The hera of 
Cherry Mountain, baing unlettered, has kept no 
records, and hence has to depend on a treacherous 
memory that is incident to over eighty years in 
the making of history. 

We cherished no fond hope of setting the river 
on fire, and should such a conflagration occur, no 
one would be greater surprised than the Authar. 

Neither has it been the aim, as J. Proctor Knott 
of Kentucky would say, ' 'to strain the blankets of 
veracity, " but these characters are given as found 
during a sojourn of eighteen years near the scenes 
of their operations; while the incidents are partly 
obtained from old and reliable resident witnesses. 

This work was not intended as a stricture or a 
series of strictures on the revenue service, nor as 
an apology for the maker of contraband whiskey. 

Neither is it expected to adorn the Sunday 
School library, for the hero did not die young and 
a picture would here be out of place of a funeral 
scene with a youthful figure the central figure in 
the repose of death surrounded by weeping friends 
and relatives. 

Nor yet is it expected that it be recommended 
in a course of theology, nor that the absent-mind- 
ed philosopher will draw inspiration from its 

A History of Amos Owens' Life. 


The effort to glorify .crime has been avoided, 
and nothing here is given to cause the youthful 
reader to desire a life of crime. 

Nay, verily; but through all these pages runs 
the solemn warning: "The way of the transgressor 
is hard," and the effort has been made to preserve 
a chaste and simple style. 

Instead of a bewildering array of dates and an 
intricate plot the effort has been made to remain 
near the soil, which is the place if one ever expects 
to get an enduring hold on the public. 

With the passing of Amos Owens, the present 
condition of affairs and the mandates of sdciaty 
will soon relegate the blockader to the past— tlier a 
a dim and fading monument of . a semi-barbar )ii< 
age^ ; " \ 

The press and pulpit hurl their denuliciations at 
this unholy traffic, and the stately stepping of eii- 
cation brought about by modest, humble but n ^^13 ^ 
the less powerful school master who isnowabr :ad 
and here to stay, will beat back many of the 
hordes of intemperance and other powerful agen- 
cies of darkness. 

In the modest hope that no one will be worse by 
the perusal, but that all may be enter tainel if ml 
edified, and that our next bow will be hailed with 
rapture, we trust this infant industry to the ten- 
der mercies of a fun loving public. 


Polkville, N- C, Cleveland Co., Aug. 22, 1901. 

A History of Amos Owens' Life. 

Caption of Chapters. 


Youth, of a famous maker of contraband whis- 
key. Parentage, and early school days. His ex- 
perience at musters and record as a hunter, horse- 
man and fighter. 


He begins his career as a distiller, and later, 
bays "Cherry Mountain"— now celebrated in song 
and story. His marriage briefly noted. Mention 
ol Jesse R. DePriest, a quaint character of this 
mountain. Amos becomes a fine farmer. 

He enlists as a Southern volunteer. Is a sharp 
shooter at Petersburg. Is at the "blow up." His 
experience with dropsy. Prison life, and his to- 
ba.c3 deal. Has typhoid fever coming home. 
Health restored by working hard all night at a 
distillery. - 


Resists the revenue tax. ' 'Bread the staff of life 
and whiskey life itself," saith he, backed by the 
sentiment of his neighl3ors. The "red-legged grass 
hopper" becomes a burden. The revenue officers 
given this sobriquet by ex-Governor and then Sen- 
ator Vance. The famous black-heart cherry re- 
gion. Part of ' 'The Switzerland of America. " 
Cherry bounce invented. 


His first trial for selling ' 'blockade, " or moon- 
shine whiskey. "Beats the bond" by masquerad- 
ing, and sells forty gallons at the trial. Is a cap- 
italist in disguise, and is the pride andenvy of his 

A HiSTOEY OF Amos Owens' Life. 

less frond companions. 


Again is brought to trial. Sketch of "Rev." 
Geo. Deck, of color, who alternately preaches and 
operates a wild cat distillery. Passing notice of 
"Cooney" Hunnicutt, a martyr of the whipping 
post. Except a predeliction to lie, cheat and steal; 
Honeycutt is an honest man. Col. Whangdoodle 
Tessiner, also a witness. His absent-mindedness, 
Amos comes clear, and again sells forty gallons. 


Rise of "Invisible Empire," or "Ku Klux 
Klan." Troubles of "Reconstruction." Negroes 
and their leaders cause a clash. ' 'The U nion 
Leagues. " The grotesque disguises and the terror 
of the superstitious negroes. Amos is a leader. 

Dectruction of James Justice's printing plant 
and whipping of Aaron Biggerstaff . Martial law 
prevails, and Amos Owens and others arrested. 
Devotion of our hero. Randolph Shotwell, Adol- 
phus DePriest, Plato Durham and others. The 
above named are sentenced to a term of six years 
at Sing Sing, Albany, New York, and all placed 
in durance vile, except Plato Durham. While 
awaiting trial, Amos sells whiskey at Rutherford- 
ton and Marion, N. C. Plato Durham gets Amos 
pardoned at end of two years, and fine of |5,500 


Is a free man once more, but finds that the red- 
legged grass-hopper has again devoured his sub- 
stance. Goes gunning; and lands in jail. Meets 
' 'Aunt Polly Price, " a Rutherford youngster of 99 
who has kept his bureau — rescuing the same from 
the festive grasshopper. 

A History of Amos Owens' Life. 


Is haled before Judge Dick at Asheville. The 
dignified reprimand of • 'his honor, " and Amos 
quotes the language of the governor of North 
Carolina to the governor of South Carolina. Again 
sent to Sing Sing. ' 'Kill the fatted prodigal, for 
the calf has got back. " "One year for rest and 
refreshments. " ' 'The place sought the man and 
not the man the place. " 


Improves his resort, or ' 'earth, " two stills de- 
stroyed, Che.ry Mountain is the Mecca of conviv- 
ial spirits, and they come from everywhere. The 
varied festivities, dancing, flying jennies, the 
prize ring. The pious young man from Gastonia 
slays a man with an iron stirrup. 


The ' 'gander-pulling" the dog and chicken fights, 
and deeds of mortal combat. Burt Franklin — an 
ancient warrior, and a mighty "gander puller" in 
the earth. Wanted to enlist in '98 to ' 'Remember 
the Maine." 


The duel between two colored Lotharios, ' 'All 
on account of Eliza, " Jack Badniss, colored, the 
victor, J. Dudley Bomar "never came back." The 
victor captures the one-eypd widow of 47, and her 
$40. Is now living in splendor on Cherry Moun- 


Is Amos Owens black as painted? He continues 
to I still and sell brandy, whiskey and bounce, in 
spite of Uncle Sam and the ' 'locusts. " He is 
caught in South Carolina and imprisoned one 

A History of Amos Owens' Life. 

year. Heroic defense of Sheriff Glenn from the 
assault of three negroes. Become the Joseph^ of 
the prison. The bees swarm and Amos hives 
them. They fight "like the colored troops" — no- 
bly, but the old blockader captures them and 
sings; "God Save the Queen." 


He improves Cherry Mountain — resolves to 
build a tower or observatory in interest of service. 
Was arrested, and the project failed. 


Again is captured, and is tried before Judge 
Dick, sent again to Sing Sing w^here his reception 
is characteristic. Amos claims he is there to take 
a "post-graduate course." 


Another blockader comes on the stage — a bold 
bad man who shoots to kill. Terrorizes North and 
South Carolina. A marshall and blockader by 
turns. Is outlawed and traced to his lair. Des- 
perate fight with captors, in which he is seriously 
shot and wounded. Recovers and is exiled by court. 


Another doing blockader Avho has reformed and 
has symptoms of engaging in ministry. After a 
desperate fight with his brother-in-law leaves the 
territory. Author, wh!le not a lawyer, defends 
him at a Cherry Mountain temple of justice. All 
wept but the client, the "law^-er," and the mutes 
thereof. Lives an exemplary life now, and would 
preach, but can't read. 


The last trial of Amos Owens. By kindness 

A HisTOEY OF Amos Owens' Life. 

and an exhortation, Judge Dick wins a promise of 
reform. Tearful, and later, a jubilant scene in 
the court room. ' 'Go your way and sin no more. " 


Mineral wealth, forestry, and grand and en- 
chanting view of "The Land of the Sky" from 
Cherry Mountain. Gold, silver, lead, mica and 
manazite found here. What is, "Taxation with 
out representation?" 


Yv^ork written by a man who never saw inside a 
moonshine distillery. The work is attested by 
good and living witnesses. Xo drawing on imag- 
inations for buccaneers, pirates or bandits. Xo 
incarcerated maidens who are sought out by spi- 
der, legged dudes who wear tin shields and carry 
dark lanterns and swamp angel pistols. 


Xo romance worth mentioning, is on record as 
to his courtship and marriage. The old man 
worming and suckering tobacco and the girl peel- 
ing walnuts. Married by a justice who took a 
quart and a coonskin. "Took an observation, " 
over the bottle. Went to a house three stories 
long and one story high. Both still there. Squat- 
ter Sovereignty. Jerry Bowlin as hard to dislodge 
as Amos is to stop from stilling. The Syndicate, 
backed by the majority of the law, tries to dis- 
lodge him. The house comes down, but Phoenix- 
like, it rises again. Jerry testifies on Sunday oc- 
casions, that lightning in the north is a ' 'shore" 
sign of rain. Given over to his devices, he still 
digs, sand, peels tan bark, hunts squirrels and has 
frequent "shindigs." 







A History of the Life 

— »?WSm-.— 

The saying lias become trite, that truth is 
stranger than fiction. 

Tlie reahns of the latter abound in scenes of 
blood and thunder, where pirates, Indians, coun- 
terfeiters, cow-boys and others are the central fig- 
ures, but another class exists in the mountain reg- 
ions of Kentucky, Tennesee, North Carolina, Vir- 
ginia and Georgia, that a true recital of their ad- 
ventures, made of life, together with their fierce 
conflicts with the minions of the law known as 
deputy marshals, would be more thrilling than 
any recital of deeds of daring or shrewd cunning 
that adorn the realms of romance. 

While these latter day Ishmaelites are not al- 
ways depraved by nature, their peculiar calling 
forces them to often become outlaws, and some of 
them, outside of a deep-seated hatred of the ' 'rev- 
enuers," as they are called in the vernacular of the 
moonshiner, and a deep-seated defiance of the 
"Grovernment" are good neighbors, and in all oth- 
er respects', honest men, the noblest work of God. 

In their isolated environments, they can raise 
little but corn, and being remote from railroads 
or commercial centres, the bread and butter prob- 
lem requires that they make all they can of this 

Most of them are illiterate, and, therefore un- 
progressive. , The "mixed team" of a mule and ox, 

10 A HisTOBY OF Amos Owens' Life. 

yea, sometimes the male and milk cow, the tar- 
axle wagon, with the obsolete pattern of plow that 
flourished in the days of Andrew Jackson, are 
their equipment to wrest a living from the bosom 
of mother earth. 

While corn is worth from twenty five to fifty cts. 
per bushel, and perhaps a two days drive from 
their homes to a town where their quaint costumes 
and grotesque teams provoke derision, and where, 
after trying the market thef are told they will 
have to ' 'take in trade" something they do not 
want, they resolve to convert the same into whis- 
key — a commodity that the depraved appetites of 
mankind makes a "legal tender. " They, like all 
other ignorant people, live in the ' 'good old days" 
when whiskey was untaxed. 

For their infraction of the revenue laws they 
have been hunted like wild beasts and ferocious 
bandits, and the fierce sanguinary encounters be- 
tween them and the ofl3.cers of the government, 
when fairly written, would be a series of thrill- 
ing recitals. While ' 'Redmond, the Outlaw, " a 
noted moonshiner of this State, has been the hero 
of romance, and has contributed to recent history 
as an avenger of blood for the "blockaders" or 
makers of contraband whiskey as called in this 
state ; a greater than Redmond is here. While the 
deeds of Redmond and his henchmen rivalled the 
reign of terror in Robeson, Richmond and Cum- 
berland counties of North Carolina which were 
perpetrated by Henry Berry and Steve Lowery, 
Croaton bandits descended from John White's 
last colony; the remarkable adventures of Amos 
Owens, who is now enthroned on Cherry Moun- 
tain, causes all the deeds of the other moonshin- 
ing ilk to pale into insignificance. This remark- 
able man was born over eighty years since on 
Sandy Run, in Rutherford County, North Caro- 
lina. His father was a ne'er do well, and would 

A History of 'Amos Owens' Life. 11 

fill the literary character of the present known as 
the "cheerful idiot. " The grandfather of Amos 
was also a native Tar-heel, and was a patriot in 
the Revolution. 

He was at King's Mountain where the dashing 
and intrepid Col. Ferguson made the ranting 
boast that "God Aimighey could not dislodge 
him. " But the deadly marksmen of the McDow- 
ell contingent, among whom was the Amos Owens 
for whom the subject of this sketch ' was named, 
with their deadly hair triggered rifles hurled the 
minions of King Greorge from this eminence cele- 
brated in song and story. Ferguson was slain, and 
in five miles of the present castle of Amos Owens, 
about twenty tories were hung, and the site of the 
famous "gallows oak" is still pointed out to the 

Except a rugged well knit frame, a constitution 
like boarding-house butter, digestion like the 
bowels of a threshing machine, there was nothing 
specially unbearable about the youth of Amos 
Owens. He was strong, active, an unerring shot, 
and, while peaceable, would fight desperately 
when aroused. 

Grood markmanship, and athletic sports were 
common with all young men and boys of that pe- 
riod, and all grievances were adjusted by fistic 
encounters. Amos is unlettered, having never 
attended school but a few days. His instructor 
was a queer Irishman known as "Old man 
O'Neil. " The principal educational helps used in 
this temple of knowledge were harness tugs and 
barrel staves, and the play time diversions were 
bull-pen and dog-fighting. Amos at this age 
showed aversion to restraint, and a few applica- 
tions of the harness tug caused him to "side-track" 
on the road to learning. 

At nine years of age he was hired out, and was 
a ' 'hewer of wood and a dra war of water" till he 

12 A HisTOKY OF Amos Q wens' Life. 

.at t(ained the age of twenty three. •- ., r 

: Among his neighbors were some wealthy gentle- 
man, who had a great passion for .deer' hiintng 
and fox-chasing. These men were respectively: 
Dr. James Cabaniss^ John Lattimore, Joe; Latti- 
more, D. B. Lattimore; William Elliott and Col. 
A. J. Elliott. 

Except P. D. Lattimore, -aged 82, and the hero 
, of this story, all have passed over the river — J. C. 
Lattimore dying two years since at the age of 84. 
Amos was a fine rider, with the woodcraft and 
hunting instinct of the red man of the forest, and 
was, therefore, a welcome acquisition to any hunt- 
ing party. He, also, became a noted breaker of 
horses, and as such was in great demand. 

Nothing eventful occur ed during this period 
except his marriage to a Miss Sweezy, a near 
neighbor, who still lives, aged 82. He took great 
delight in attending the military "musters" of 
this region, which did more to keep up the martial 
spirit in actual pugilistic encounters, than to de- 
velop a knowledge of military tactics. Men for 
real or fancied grievances stripped to, the waist 
and fought in a ring, sometimes as high as twen- 
ty such encounters taking place in one day at a 
muster. In these encounters Amos Avas a frequent 
participant, and was never known to strike his 
colors. At the shooting matches he became so ex- 
pert, -that he was ruled out of matches for beef. 
The only condition on which he was allowed to 
compete, was to shoot for the "lead" which he al- 
most invariably won. 


In 1845 he bought 100 acres of land from Thom- 
as Calton near Cherry Mountain. He planted a 
crop, but this was a season of universal drought. 
All old people speak of the "dry year of 45." 

In '46 he began his career, as a distiller, little 

A History of Amos Owens' Life. 13 

dreaming this career was to make liim famous. 
He had no tax to pay, and being a good distiller, 
he made money. Six years later, he bought the 
historic Cherry Mountain, or rather 100 acres from 
Jesse R. DePriest. 

The latter was a celebrity, who figured as a 
famous fighter, and was never downed in telling 
of a more remarkable experience than any other 
man he ever met, be he a stranger or home-talent. 
As a stage driver, a fighter, or a ladies man, he 
had the call over anything quick or dead he ever 
met or read about. 

Later, Amos bought 140 acres from William 
DePriest, the father of the celebrated Jesse. No- 
body wondered at the DePriests' for selling this 
property, but all marvelled at Amos for making 
the purchase. Jesse DePriest used to relate that 
every crow that flew over Cherry Mountain had a 
canteen of water and a haversack of rations 
strapped to his person. 

But Amos caused the desert to blossom as the 

He made fine corn and oats, and his yield of 
wheat was about 150 bushels every season. Neith- 
er was he unmindful of the mountain ' 'legal ten- 
der." He kept his still ranning, and his coffers 
bulged ^4th filthy lucre. 

When the war of '61 opened, he cast his fortunes 
with the South, and enlisted as a volunteer in 
the company made up by Capt. H. D. Lee, after- 
wards promoted to major. His regiment was the 
16th N. C, and he was in the Valley Mountain 
region of Virginia and also at Manassas. At 
Wolf Run, after serving twelve months, was dis- 
charged, the army surgeons saying he had an 
incurable case of dropsey. He was sent home, and 
his neighbors thinking dropsey was "ketching," 
shunned him as they would the roving pestilence. 

He stayed at home twelve months and entirely 

14 A History of Amos Owens' Life. 

recovered. His martial spirit chafed at inaction, 
and he paid his own transportation to Salisbury, 
N. C, where he enrolled in the 56th N. C. regi- 
ment, in company under Capt. J. B. Harrill. He 
wae detailed to hunt deserters, and to this line of 
service was admirably adapted. 

Later, he was in the seige of Petersburg as a 
sharp-shooter. It is related that he always fired 
after a careful aim, and as he took his smoking 
rifle from his face, would say: "And may the 
Lord have mercy on the soul of that blue-coat." 

At the celebrated ' 'blow up" a South Carolina 
regiment was over the mine, and they were an- 
nihilated by the explosion. The regiment of 
Amos was near, and when the smoke lifted from 
the "crater," a division of colored troops were 
pushed into the yawning chasm by the federals. 
This was the most terrible scene of carnage af- 
forded by that bloody war. The Southern troops 
fired one volley, and gave them the bayonet. Ev- 
ery negro in this charge perished, and Amos was 
a participant in the sanguinary scene. He says 
no more revolting sight was ever witnessed in 
this lost and ruined world. 

As a soldier Amos was brave and remarkably 
vigilant. He seemed to love battle for battles 
sake, and although "a high private in the rear 
rank," frequently cursed his comrades for shoot- 
ing up in the trees when the Yankees were just as 
close to the ground as they could git." 

He was captured at Dinwiddle, and carried as 
a i)risoner to Point Lookout. Here he suffered 
the ()rivations incident to prison life, but with his 
characteristic buoyancy of spirits, resolved te 
make the best of the situation. 

He tried to laugh and grow fat, but learned 
that all laughter and no food would not add to 
his corporacity. Always a shrewd trader he con- 
sidered one dollar in the hand, when a man was 

A HiSTOEY OF Amos Owens' Life. 15 

starving, worth five in tlie bush at his Cherry 
Mountain home. He found a money changer in 
the temple, who was a shining light of philan-' 
thropy. This gentleman, touched by the round 
unvarnished tale of woe, which Amos did unfold, 
generously tendered Amos one dollar in "green 
back" in consideration of a note bearing legal in- 
terest for five dollars in gold. With this dollar, 
Amos made a deal with the shylock who posed 
as Sutler, and got all the plug tobacco purchas- 
able for one hundred cents. This he cut into 
"chaws" and did not make them too large. He 
then' became a retailer of a concoction made of 
fodder, cabbage and lamp black, but veneered 
with tobacco. 

Amos, among his other accomplishments had 
never cultivated the habit of using the weed. For 
one "chaw" he exacted a "tin" of soup and if 
some rash speculator wanted two "chaws" he 
parted company with a rasher of bacon. Amos 
said on one side it was liberality and starvation, 
while on the other was extorsion and high living. 
He chose the latter, and in the experience and ob- 
servation of this corn-fed philosopher who how 
holds the pen, such a man as Amos who sell 
chews of tabacco at ten prices are wiser in their 
generation than the children of light who open 
the brand of Liberality. 

In three months he was paroled, and an arrival 
at terminus of railroad, 60 miles from home, was 
stricken With typhoid fever. Here he was, out of 
money, out of tobacco, and among strangers. But 
ever fertile in resources, he got home, and for 
twenty-eight days the watchers sat in vigil at his 
bedside, and Dr. Phillip Carson, a fine physici an 
said: "He is bound to die." But his grim will- 
power fought back the enemy, and in three 
months an amaciated skeleton with little left of 
Am)s Owens, but his fierce black eyes and mar- 

16 A HisTOEY OF Amos Owens' Life. 

tial spirit said he was going to his brandy distil- 
lery. Dr. Carson was present and expostul- 
ated. He declared if Amos rode that horse to the 
distillery all the doctors in the State could not 
keep him out of perdition. 

The reply of Amos was characteristic. He said; 
' 'Doctor you say if I go I'll be damned, and I say 
if I don't go I'll b3 damned." By that time a 
horse was brought around, that nobody but 
Amos dared ride at any time. 

The audacious patient mounted him and rode to 
the distillery, and then worked hard all night. 
From that time his recovery was rapid, and he 
was soon the picture of rugged health. 


By this time a heavy tax was inposed on all 
whisky and brandy, but Amos registered a blood 
red oath that this tax heVl never pay. 

He reverently believed that while bread was 
the staff of life whiskey was life itself. That it 
was the chief end of man to raise enough corn to 
make whiskey, and convert the remainder into 
bread. He had fought the government, been im- 
prisoned by the government, been starved by the 
government, and he didn't propose to divide pro- 
fits of his whiskey business with the government. 

The still was his, the corn was his, the land 
was his, and the raiders of Kirk and Holden had 
looted his property. Besides, the government had 
freed the only negro he had, and he'd see them 
al~>out getting tax. 

Truth to tell, nearly all the people in the south 
were in sympathy with such men as Amos. While 
many of them were opposed on general principles 
to the manufacture and sale of whiskey, the 
esi)ionage of the federal revenue officers was 

Amos owned Cherry Mountain which was 3000 

(slorm Carolina :>TaTe Liorary 

A History of Amos Owens' Life. 17 

feet above the level of the sea. From here was a 
most enchanting view of the mountain scenery 
that is called the ' 'Switzerland of America, " and 
from here could be seen Shelby, Rutherfordton, 
King's Mountain, with a view of the mountains of 
Georgia, Virginia and Tennessee. Here could be 
breathed the pure air of heaven, and here as pure 
limpid water as ever gurgled from the bosom of 
mother earth rippled down the delves of the 
mountains. Here grew the famous cherry trees, 
some three feet in diameter, and are found no- 
where else; that yielded every June a crop of 
fruit remarkable for its size and flavor. Here was 
found the ideal honey producing flavors of poplar, 
chestnut and sourwood, and here was the ideal 
range for the cattle of a thousand hills. The 
home of the cow, the honey-bee, pure water and 
invigorating mountain air, and not excelled on 
earth for the fruit tree and the vine. Amos said 
here would he build a castle like the baron of 
feudal times, and here should be the land of milk 
and honey, peach and honey, and the abiding 
place of cherry bounce. No man had ever before 
tried to adorn and beautify Cherry Mountain, 
nor had it ever occurred to anybody to offer to a 
convivial public this drink now celebrated in song 
and story. 

The preparation made and warranted by Amos 
Owens is a compound of 44 blue steel whiskey, 
honey and cherry juice. Later on, will deal more 
minutely with cherry bounce, but at this period 
Amos built a large cattle-like building and offer- 
ed to a public this elixir. 


The powers that be had issued the fiat that all 
whiskey and brandy must be tax paid, or there 
would be fines, imprisonment and confiscation. 

18 A HisTOEY OF Amos Owens' Life. 

Amos had said lie would make what whiskey and 
brandy he pleased; and tendered the government 
the '^ame pious message issued by the late lament- 
ed Vanderbilt to the public. 

In those days, the revenue officers were often 
adventurers of the most unscrupulous character. 
The inimitable Zeb Vance, ex-governor and sena- 
tor, of North Carolina, satirically called them 
"red-legged grasshoppers. " As Amos continued 
to do business at the old stand regardless of the 
government and the nuisance thereof, two officers 
came up one day and placed him under arrest, 
and otherwise harassed him, till the red-legged 
grass-hopper became a burden. They were satis- 
fied that he'd go if he promised, and as. he made 
no resistance they took his recognizance to appear 
at Asheville, N C. 

He loaded up a barrel of "blockade" or moon- 
shine whiskey, and told one of his henchmen to 
come on three days after to Asheville. The fel- 
low was shrewd and loaded a barrel of brandy 
into a wagon, and filled up with sweet potatoes 
and chestnuts. 

Amos went on afoot, and his masquerading 
would have done credit to ' 'Old Sleuth" of dime 
novel creation. He put on a pair of slick copperas 
breeches, a hat that like the "Niobe of 
nations," was "crownless and childless," the 
same having been used as a "holder," in smooth- 
ing iron and parlance. For two years it had been 
used to lift hot things around the distillery. His 
shoes were red stogas and his suspenders were 
leather. Above Rutherfordton he overtook two 
others who were likewise making a pilgrimage to 
Asheville on the same errand. Our hero tried to 
stimulate the appearance of an inspired idiot, 
while his companions tried to masquerade as high- 
rollers. They looked with scorn on the vile-look- 
ing walking delegate, and seemed ashamed of his 

A History of Amos Owens' Life. 19 

company. When tliey arrived, all hands were 
placed on trial, and Amos employed a lawyer for 
all three. When the hat circulated the two 
haughty high-rollers had depleted exchequers, 
but Amos had a very plethoric roll. When the 
dudish blockaders saw this, they imagined him a 
capitalist in disguise, and treated him with mark- 
ed consideration. All were acquitted and Amos 
went out to sell his load of "taters" that had just 
arrived. It was soon evident that ' 'taters" were 
in great demand, all the bar-rooms, hotels, and 
many private families, being "just out." 

Amos went home in his wagon, having sold 20 
bushels and 40 gallons of "taters," and Cherry 
Mountain was again a place where the still-worm 
dieth no(; and the fire is not quenched. 


In a few months he had another visitation of 
red-legged grasshoppers. This time he was ar- 
raigned before 'Squire Wilson of Rutherfordton. 
The witnesses against him were the Rev. George 
Deck of color, Cooney Honeycutt, and Col.'. 
Whangdoodle Tessiner, known generally by the 
euphonious cognomen of "Rosineer," (roasting 

The Reverend Deck was a maker and retailer 
of wild cat whiskey, and, in his own language, 
had heard a very audible and peremptory call to 
work in "de Laud's tanyard." Like most of his 
race, he was an artist on the barjoseph; and wore 
a very ancient "derby" and a James Swinger coat 
of obselete pattern. In the spring and winter he 
distilled whiskey, and when the sultry dog days 
drew nigh apace, he blossomed out as an evange- 
list and called sinners to repentance. His . favor- 
ite text was: "It is easier for a needle to go 
through the eye of a camel than for a rich man to 
sae the Kingdom of Gaud. " His hearers were 

20 A History of Amos Owens' Life. 

invariably negroes who daily wrestled with the 
problem as to how buckle and tongue could be 
made to meet, but he addressed them as though 
all were capitalists, and painted in lurid colors 
the final woe of the bloated-bond-holder. He al- 
ways took up a collection, and left them as pen- 
niless as though he was a professor of "thimble- 

On one occasion he had an appointment for 
himself to preach, and a confederate to sell some 
of his wild-cat whiskey at the same appointment. 
At the evening service many of his auditors came 
in with very suspicious bottles of the mother- 
hubbard variety sticking out their pockets. 

The Rev. Deck looked at them in solemn 
gravity and expatiated thusly; "De gates of he- 
ben am berry narer men ail' bredren, an' you'll 
do well to squeeze f rough your self; let alone a 
great bottle swingin to Ye, Come right on an' let 
us offer dem as a sacrifice to the Laud. " When 
the time came for the night service, it is related 
that Bro. Deck was too drunk to brush a horse- 
fly from the end of his nose. 

Mr. Honeycutt was conversant with the whip- 
ping post, having been there interviewd for let- 
ting a hog follow him home and putting the same 
in a pork-barrel, also, for looting his grandma's 
spee's, and for taking a ' 'pea-fowl" fly-brush at 
Christmas time. He, however, interpolated every 
expression with: "(rod knows I'm an honest man," 

Col. Whangdoodle Tessineer was noted for be- 
ing rather absent-minded. When hogs ran out in 
the range, nearly all owners had ear-marks. 
His ear mark was "two smoothcrops. " That 
obliterated all other marks, and he frequently 
practiced this in moments of absent-minded- 

Amos knew the layout and defended his own 
case. The roars of laughter he evoked caused the 

A History of Amos Owens' Life. 21 

whole thing to develop into a roaring farce, and 
he was acquitted. 

Ever after this episode Tessiner has been called 
"Shacknorty, " and Honeycutt, "(ji-reasy Jim." 
Both have since left these regions, and Deck is al- 
ternately preaching and stilling. 


We now approach a time momentous in the his- 
tory of North Carolina, and eventful in the career 
of Amos Owens. So far he had outwitted the 
red-legged grasshopper except in two instances, 
and his court experience was bat amusement. 
When the war closed and the Southern Slave be- 
came a citizen and later, was, in the language of 
Bill Nye, "clothed with the divine right of suf- 
frage," discordant elements clashed. However 
patriotic may have been the motives of the federal 
administration, the work of "re-constraction" was 
as the sowing of dragon's teeth. 

The leading white people of the South were in- 
dignant at seeing their former slaves their politi- 
cal equals, and a season of rapine, blood-shed and 
anarchy ensued. 

The negroes, intoxicated with the boon of tree- 
dom, and instigated by unscrupulous politicians, 
became insolent. While no people in their condi- 
tion had ever been so loyal to the women and 
children while the men of the South were battling 
to forge their fefcters, a feeling of unrest and dis- 
trust had now settled on both races. By some 
strange frenzy or hallucination, many of the freed 
slaves that were styled by General Butler, "con- 
traband of war," were arrayed against the kind 
old master and his family, whom, during the 
struggle ' when the negro's destiny hung in the 
b ce, they would have died to maintain and 

22 A HiSTOEY OF Amos Owens' Life. 

C n the side of the administration were organ- 
ized Union Leagues, and, with many of the ne- 
groes, liberty degenerated into license. 

The southern soldier had accepted the fortunes 
of war in the generous terms of surrender at Ap- 
pomattox, and while he went to a desolated home, 
and fields that grim war had ravaged he felt that 
he could again take up the burden of life. But 
when he saw the slave of yesterday the intolerant 
master of to-day, it was too much for the proud 
Cavalier. JSfo, doubt, both sides made mistakes, 
but certain it is that, in retaliation, was organ- 
ized the "Kuklux Klan, " The intention of this 
was to put in subjection the negroes, and to hold 
their unscrupulous white leaders in abeyance. 

By subjection is not of course, meant to again 
impose the shackles of slavery, but to bridle their 
domineering and lustful spirit. The Kuklux were 
a secret and oath bound organization, that rode 
a.bout at night in grotesque disguise. This struck 
terror to the hearts of the superstitious negroes, 
for their ghostly array and the phantom like tread 
of their muffled horses made the negro believe 
they were the ghostly avengers of the south from 
the battle-fields of the southern slain. While no 
mob violence is to be commended, their visitations 
were said, at first, to have a salutary effect. The 
organization was at first controlled by men of 
coolness and discretion, who would tolerate no ex- 
cesses. But a lawless and vicious element crept 
in, who had personal scores to settle 

Many offenders were whipped, some banished, 
and others even slain. Early in the action, Amos 
Owens became a member, and his energy, persis- 
tence and courage, made him a leading spirit. 

In the first place he had no love for a govern- 
ment that would allow a red-legged grass-hopper 
prey upon him, and in the next he didn't like to 
see "Cuffey" in the saddle. It is said that every 

A History of Amos Owens' Life. 

white ' 'red string" that felt the rod of the avenger 
could see the fine Italian hand of this muscular 
Kuklux, and every negro that felt the stinging 
lark thought if it were not some phantom cavalier 
from Gettysburg it must be Amos. 

At length James Justice, a Republican editor, 
of Rutherfordton, was seized, treated with indig- 
nity and his press and fixtures destroyed. 

On the same night, Aaron Biggerstaff a noted 
and very unpopular "red-string," as the republi- 
cans were called, was given a very severe castiga- 
tion. Soldiers and deputy marshalls were sent to 
the scene of disturbance, and soon the counties of 
Cleveland and Rutherford swarmed with men 
whose mission was to uphold the majesty of the 
law. On information of Aaron Biggerstaff war- 
rants were sworn out against Amos as a partici- 
pant in the whipping of himself, and as a perpe- 
trator in the destruction of the printing office and 
the rough treatment of Editor Justice. Many fled 
the State, some turned State's evidence, but Amos 
Owens, Plato Durham, Randolph Shotwell, Adol- 
phus DePriest, etc. , stood their ground like stern 
old Romans. 

Five soldiers and three marshalls came for 
Amos, and found him making malt. He went to 
Rutherf ordton jail where he was incarcerated two 
weeks. Before he had been there three days his 
trusty potato peddler was on hand, and Amos 
was enabled, by the kindness of his captors, to 
sell 20 more bushels and 40 gallons of "taters." 

He got a change of venue to Marion, N. C, and 
in two days his bewhiskered confederate was on 
deck with more "taters." Like Rutherf ordton, 
the market was unusually active that day, and 
with the alleged eagle-eyed marshalls at his heels, 
he sold out ' '20 bushels and 40 gallons. " 

He and the others were taken thence to the 
capital City, Raleigh, and there they were ^r- 

24 A HiSTOEY OF Amos Owens' Life. 

raigned before Judge Baird. Many turned State's 
evidence here, or ' 'puked" as it was called by the 
the ones who stood the ordeal. Every overture 
was made to induce Amos Owens, Randolph Shot- 
well, Adolphus DePriest and Plato Durham to 
betray their comrades, but all such propositions 
were met with indignant scorn. When the evi- 
dence was taken the sentence was, ' 'six years in 
Sing Sing at hard labor, and a fine of $5500 each. " 
Adolphus DePriest was turned out to die before 
his sentence expired and died in a few weeks af- 
ter reaching home. Randolph Shotwell served 
part of his sentence and died soon after, but is 
venerated as a true and great man, and the mem- 
ory of Adolphus DePriest is also venerated. Plato 
Durham was released, and threw his whole pow- 
erful influence into the scale for his unfortunate 
comrades. He went to Washington City and had 
an interview with the president. By his courage, 
zeal and eloquence, he caused the sphinx-like hero 
of Appomattox to sign the order for the release of 
Amos Owens. . 


At the end of two years Amos was again on 
the soil of Cherry Mountain, and felt like Mr. 
Greggoi" on his native heath. But again had the 
red-legged grasshopper become a burden. In his 
absence the festive grass-hoppers had carried away 
three horses, three wagons, several cows, his bu- 
reau, beds, and even his grindstone. Three 
strong petitions had been sent up for his pardon, 
but the "grass-hoppers" whom Amos hated as 
veritable locusts from the bottomless pit, had sent 
counter petitions which said, ' 'Nay, verily, for he 
is a pestilent fellow and mover of sedition." The 
scene of desolation he met at home would hav^ 
crushed a spirit less bold, but Amos was cast in 
heroic mold. He got his trusty gun and hunted 

A HisTOEY OF Amos Owens' Life. 25 

his plunder. For this he was placed in durance 
vile in Rutherford jail and there languished un- 
til court, when the judge ordered his release. One 
incident worthy to relate, perhaps, is the recov- 
ery of his bureau. It was at "Aunt" Polly 
Price's. He went for it and she said it was left 
there by '-grass hopper" and that she was glad to 
restore it. 

She being 99 years of age, then informed him 
she would soon attain 100 years. On that occa- 
sion, if Amos would send over a few "taters," she 
would set a big dinner and they would dance the 
"highland fling." Amos said nothing would 
please him better, but he had promised shoe shop 
"No. 1" at Sing Sing he'd soon be back, and he 
never liked to disappoint them. 

He saved what he could out of the wreck and 
soon his bounce and other products of his labra- 
tory were on the market and his coffers were full 
of filthy lucre. 


But a Nemisis was on his trail, and the villain 
still pursued him. Like the ghost of Banquo, the 
revenue oflicers would not "avaunt," but like the 
unbidden ghost at the feast the red-legged grass- 
hopper was ever present. He was sent to Sing 
Sing for kuklux outrages in 1872, and in 1876 
while performing his sorrowful vigil at the bed 
side of a dying neighbor, he felt the grasp of 
personified law. He was in the toils of the 
"locusts," and was the same night remanded to 
Rutherford jail. Later, he appeared for trial be- 
fore Judge Dick, at the revenue court of Asheville, 
N. C. Judge Dick heard the evidence, and be- 
fore passing sentence said : ' 'Amos Owens stand 
up. Once before you have trodden the winepress 
as a Sing Sing convict, and you have stiffened 

26 A History of Amos Owens' Life. 

your neck and liardened your heart again, 
against the majesty of the law you have made 
whiskey and sold the same. Why will you per- 
sist in your lawless course? Look at me, I am 
sixty years of age, was never drunk, and have 
never incurred the woe pronounced against him 
that putteth tli3 bottle tohis neighbor's lips. What 
have you to say, why the sentence of the law 
should not be pronounced upon you?" 

Amos cocked one eye, cleared his throat and 
with mock solemnity, said: "Well, Judge, yon 
have missed a durned lot of fun if you haint 
never made, drunk nor sold no licker. As to 
what I have to say about being sentenced — Judge, 
do you know what the Governor of North Caro- 
lina said to the Governor of South Carolina? 
"Them's my sentiments." 

"One year in Sing Sing and twelve hundred 
dollars fine, " roared the irate Judge. Amos was 
promptly taken to this bastile of Uncle Sam, and 
it is said the officials of that institution of learn- 
ing had a torch-light procession in his honor: 
Amos entered -with glee into the festivities; and 
approached the gate between two ' 'red-legged 
grass-hoppers," singing: "Hold the fort for t am 
coming." The wardens said: "Kill the fatted 
prodigal for the calf lias got back." 

All the Sing Sing contingent hailed liis appear- 
ance with great joy. 

The warden continued; "My unconverted 
friend, Amos, though long absent, has returned 
to his first love. As the ox knoweth his master's 
crib, so doth Amos come to the high tower and 
rock of refuge for the transgressor. Let the band 
play: "Jordan is a hard road to travel. " 

The superintendent also extended the follow- 
ing royal welcome: "My unconverted friend, this 
is neither a pleasant nor disagreeable surprise. 
In fact, it is no surprise at all, for we were expect- 

A History of Amos Owens' Life. 27 

ing you, and you are welcome to do business at 
the old stand. We never shake an old friend or 
an honored acquaintance, and our motto is as 
ever: "While the lamp holds out to burn. The 
vilest sinner may return." Bring hither the razor 
and the shears, and let us put a new striped robe 
on him. One Year, Amos, for rest and refresh- 

Amos rose to the emergency, gave the military 
salute, and replied in kind: "Colonel, this is a 
case of the place seeking the man, and not the 
man seeking the place. Bat vdieh- I dance I pay 
the fiddler, and never shirk when the hat cOmes 
round. When my country needed my services 
her call was as the voice of God, and I did all in 
my power to beat back the nothern invader, 

When the ruthless carpet bagger preyed like a 
cormorant on the substance of the South, I joined 
the Invisible Empire, and whenCuify commenced 
that foolishness about the "bottom rail being on 
top," I helped revive the old song; "Run! nigger, 
run! patroller catch you." When my grateful 
constituents became so dry they spit bales of cot- 
ton I tried with my "labratory" to fill a long-felt 
want and fill it to overflowing. 

At the end of ten months he was informed that 
he could again breathe the pure air of heaven, 
and that other place — Cherry Mountain, if he'd 
pay up a little matter of $1200 fine and $75 cost. 
Amos solemnly winked the other eye, and confin- 
ed himself to the hammer and last. At the end 
of thirty days he was discharged. Bidding the 
whole push a hasty good bye, he telegraphed to 
have malt prepared to make a "run." Always a 
shrewd financier, he felt that a matter of $1275 
for 30 days labor was a pretty fair dividend on 
the original investment. The malt was prepared, 
the people sounded aloud the great hew-gag and 
beat the loud tom-tom. The practiced eyes of 

2« A History of Amos Owens' Life. 

Amos were fastened on the charcoal receptacle. 
and when the first fiery shots commenced ' 'bead- 
ing at the worm," he made hill and valley echo 
with the glad refrain: "Come thou fount of 
every blessing." 

His motto was still; "millions for defence but 
not a cent for revenues. " 


When the next spring had spread her vernal 
mantle over the earth, he, as ever, had a, generous 
supply of copper— distilled, hand-made, standard- 
proof goods, and the bibulous saw it and were 
glad. He had made great improvements in his 
summer resort, and at his castle summer was to 
last twelve months in the year. While the leaves 
of his Cherry trees were not recommended for 
the healing of the nations, his bounce had a 
reputation rivaling the celebrated "bourbon" of 
Kentucky. Cherry Mountain was truly celebrated 
in song and story. Twice had his stills been <le- 
stroyed, but he reported as ever with a flourish of 
trumpets and a new out-fit. 

From every town of size and importance in the 
Old North State came votaries to do homage at 
the shrine of gay Bacchus, and from the Lone 
Star State, the Palmetto State, from the red hills 
of Georgia and the f estooned-forests of Alabama, 
came the festive cow-boy, the unadulterated 
"Goobergrabber, " the wild and woolly "Yaller- 
hammer," together with the imperious "Sand-lap- 
per" and the brawny "man-behind the gun," 
from Old Kentuck. In the June revelries, the 
guests sportively pelted each other with Irish pota- 
toes at meal time, and sometimes plates, dishes, 
axe handles, ox-yokes and bed-posts were used to 
convince the on-looker in Venice that Southern 
hospitality was not stinted. 

One contingent would be dancing furiously to 

A -'iisTORY OF Amos Owens' Life. 29 

the sound of fiddle and barjosepli others trying 
to eat and the battle royal in progress had caused 
all the dis les to he smashed over the heads of 
opposing f ictions. Still another group of merry 
makers wc uld be engaged in pistol target prac- 
tice at eac i other, and another squad up the trees 
picliing ch srries, and get winged by a stray ball. 

Amos w IS a host of remarkable versatility. If 
a man wai ited to eat, a bountiful table was al- 
ways prep, ired; if he wanted to fight, all he had 
to do was bo go out a few steps and enter the 
ring. If anybody got ' 'past varigation" he was 
piL^d into bhe cellar. One man was killed out- 
right here and others have been probed, dismem- 
bered, maimed and their faces made to resemble 
an animated war-map. 

One man of Gastonia thus giveth his experience 
at this noted resort. This was his first visit, and 
he was nob conversant with cherry-bounce and 
its effects on the human system or society. He 
was noted for deep piety, and had never felt 
the p£-ngs of the worm of the still ' 'outvenomous 
all the wo -ms of the Mle." He asked a man of 
veiy benij n visage would bounce cause intoxica- 
tion. Th( old pilgrim skinned his eye-balls de- 
voutly hesven- ward, and said: "Oh no, son, the 
pangs of c lerry bounce are not venomous. " Like 
the blesse( L dew from heaven it blesses him that 
gives and lim that takes. " The unsophisticated 
youth of a pious turn of mind quaffed sundry 
glasses. ''. 'he next thing he remembers, he was 
offering a standing salary for some one to step on 
the smokii tg tails of his coat. 

A wooly necked walking delegate from Taylors- 
ville, N. C. told him he was there or thereabout. 
The modt 1 young man cast his eyes about him 
and saw, i i close proximity, a magnificent ruin in 
the way oj horseflesh. On this ancient ruin was 
an old saddle with iron stirrups. The pious youth 

30 A HisTOEY OF Amos Oweists' Life. 

from Gastonia cut the stirrup leather off near the 
saddle and had a fine sling-shot. He smote the 
offending gentleman from Taylorsville and has 
not seen or heard of him since. He rather thinks 
the man died. 


In the days of so-called chivalry, there were 
trials of skill among the knighthood, in which the 
tournament contest was a principal feature. 

Knights fought on horse-back armed with lances 
animated by the victors privilege of crowning the 
queen of love and beauty. The scenes at Cherry 
Mountain were dashed with a flavor of this spirit, 
and contests and rivalries of every description 
were adjusted at this place during the cherry sea 
son, under the martial inspiration of bounce. Did 
a man suffer the pangs of unprized love? Here 
he could meet hi& successful rival, and the blended 
ceremonies of the gladiatorial ring, the tourna- 
ment, and the code of the antebellum Kentucky 
corn shucking were at his service. Sometimes it 
was an encounter between two agile and muscular 
giants who gloried in their skill with their dukes. 
In these contests they stripped to the waist enter- 
ed the ring, and each principal was backed by a 

No regard was had for recognized ring rules un- 
der which prize fighters strive for supremacy, but 
either participant was allowed to strike above or 
below the belt, and no restrictions or limitations 
were provided against biting, gouging, or stamp- 
ing an adversary. Sometimes in the language of 
James Owens the cousin of Amos, ' 'pieces of noses, 
fingers, toes and ears, fairly 'kivered' the earth. " 
A difficulty of this kind generally resulted in a 
free fight, in which perhaps fifty would partici- 

While a law has been for a long time on our 

A HisTOEY OF Amos Owens' Life. 31 

statute bot)ks against duelling, many affairs of 
this kind Iiave resulted at this rendezvous. 

In perhaps a dozen cases, men have been placed 
at twenty paces, fired at the word of command, 
and shot to kill. The fact that many of them 
were in the condition of having a ' 'wabble in the 
gait and an uncertain look in the eye," cheap pis- 
tols and bad markmanshipj is all that has pre- 
vented fatil ending. 

As it is iiany have been slightly wounded in 
these affairs of honor, and as before stated, in the 
free fights where pistols, guns, knives and brick- 
bats were as plentiful as^ ' 'razors in the air" at a 
colored church festival, many were injured. An- 
other diversion was gander pulling. This relief 
of barbari :5m has been absolute for probably fifty 
years everf where else, but at Cherry Mountain it 
made its last stand. A gander would be caught, 
his legs tii)d together, and tied to a horizontal 
bar. He would be left swinging eight feet from 
the ground, and his neck and head greased. 

Every participant in this diversion would be 
mounted, md was to ride at full speed by the gan- 
der and tr y to pull off his head. The greased 
neck mad( ) this difficult, as the gander, realizing 
that self presenation is the first law of nature, 
would doc ge, and the scene would become revolt- 

The mounts would be grostesque in the extreme. 
Horses wi1h one eye, horses in the last stage of 
pov-erty ar d enfeebled age, blind horses, mules of 
every age, color and previous condition of ser- 
vitude, and actually oxen, bore these modern 
knights in this peculiar and revolting tourna- 
ment. To those who never saw an ox under the 
saddle, it nay be incredible that he can be made 
to gallop, )ut a mountaineer with two spurs can 
dispel thai illusion. To see old Burt Franklin on 
his muley ox, barefooted and wearing two spurs. 

32 A History of Amos Owens' Life. 

no one would think the bovine either slow or pat- 
ient. Burt was the champion "gander-puller," 
and was, withal, a character of peculiar interest. 
He had served he said, in the Indian war under 
the stern old Hickory Jackson, was in the Mexi- 
can war under General Scott, and later, served as a 
volunteer under the stormy cross of Lee and Jack- 
son in the Southern Confederacy. He never ac- 
cumulated any property, and never seemed to 
want anything better than to be at every festivity 
of Cherry Mountain. 

He had the strength of a giant, could walk six- 
ty miles a day, and ride like a Centaur. 

He is still living at the age of 98, and 
when the cry came up from the stricken 
Pearl of the Antilles, he rode his ox twenty miles 
to a recruiting station with his "old enfield" on 
his shoulder, togething with the ancient cartridge 
box that was bullet pierced in the days of '61 to 
'65, and wanted to "remember the Maine." The 
recruiting officer laughed and. told him to go 
home, prepare to meet his God, and send some of 
his grand children. 

He straightened his tall form, flashed his eye, 
and swore he could out-run, out-jump, out-side, 
out-march and out shoot his own or any body 
else's grand- children. He tried several other 
times to enlist, and will die mad, if he ever dies 
at all, because he was not allowed to help subdue 
the haughty Dons. 

Another popular diversion of this celebrated 
resort, is chicken fighting. No man is allowed to 
put a goff on his champion, but the encounters 
are slugging matches pure and simple. 

Dog fighting is also popular, for the canine is 
more venerated in this region than the sacred 
white elephant in Indian Tor the crocodile in 
Egypt. In Kentucky they talk horse and here 
they talk dog. The exercises, during the June 

A HisTOEY OF Amos Owens' Life. 33 

carnival sf^ason, reminds one of a modern ' 'mid- 
way plaisance." At one place "a break-down" is 
in progress, when the dancing to the music of fid- 
dle and be.njo is fast and furious, while others 
will be ou: riding a "flying Jennie." At another 
place a chicken dispute is in progress, in which a 
gigantic diing-hill is trying conclusions with a 
Georgia "shawlneck." Other groups are telling 
the old story, sighing like a furnace, alternately 
coquetting; and exchanging vows of eternal con- 

Anothei contingent, headed by old Burt Frank- 
lin, who are lustily cheering the gander pulling 

In another quarter a free fight is in progress, 
and a scene is being enacted that would relegate 
hitherto cj assic and celebrated Dony brook to eter- 
nal obscurity. Still another squad are having a 
passage at arms between a ' 'bench legged fice" 
and a margy hound of uncertain age. 


The pist )1 duel at word of command is not of 
frequent cscurrence, but one was pulled off five 
yeji^rs sine* ; between two gentlemen of color that 
wa? charai teristic. One coon by the name of 
"J;ick Badness," and another known as J. Dudley 
Bomar hacL an ancient grudge which was all on 
account ol Eliza. Her name was Eliza Bigger- 
staff and s he was a decided brunette. She had 
losv an eyt and was aged 47. The eye loss was 
the result of a contest with her former husband 
who had g 3ne from rest to refreshment, but before 
his depart ire had stabbed her in the eye with a 
scribe awl. for he was a shoe maker. 

While h 3 lived they both nearly starved but 
when he shuffled off some six feet of mortal 
coil, she b: 5came a colored capitalist. As a cook 
she was in demand, and rumor said she had over 

34 A HisTOKY OF AMofe Owens' JUtfe/, 

140 to her credit. Here was an opportuiiaty ■ to 
capture aii heiress, and while Jack Badness was 
23, and J. D. Bomar 25 years of age, that matter 
of $40 covered a .multitude of defects, one-eyed 
and otherwise, and removed any disparity in 
years. Both would call every evening at the 
hours in which "little Annie Rooney" received 
visits, and would eat a hearty meal at the ex- 
pense ;of their insomoratta. They would- then 
scowl at; each other and strap their razors. 

At length their aggrieved "honor" could no 
longer tolerate such a state of affairs, and J. Dud- 
ley Bomar sent by his friend and second, the ReY; 
Geo. Washington Deck, the following challenge: 
"To the lazy, pokey, lowzy, good fox iiuthin nigger 
what is called Jack Badness, who is always loofin 
round whar heihaint wanted. A 

Ef ;you haintskeered to deth, you, can meet me 
at (ShQrry Mounting day after to-morrow. 

Bring your gun, for I is goin to shoot you so 
full of holes that ef all de places is filled with 
wooden pins you'd make a good hat rack. 
Yours to' kill, ' 

J. Dudley Bomar." 
■:; Jack Badness, after^ a very labored composition, 
evolved ithe following, and sent it back by his 
trusted friend and second, "Spotted Buck 
Sweezy:" ■■■ :' ■ , . .., . ,■ 

' 'To de lyin, loofin, thevin son of a gun what 
stole de money off en a dead man's eyes, and am a 
coward an blow hard, allow me to say dot you 
axed me to beat Cherry Mounting if I aint skeered. 

Never you mine, I'll be dar. T^lk about gun- 
nin.;Iis gwine to fillyou so full of lead dat youll 
out- weigh old Burt Franklin's big roan steer. 
Don't you fret, 111 be dar. 

Yours on de shoot. 

Jack Badness." 

Day after to-morrow came around and J. Dud- 

A HisTOEY OF Amos Owens' Life. 35 

ley Bomar and Ms staff came near beating "day 
after to-morrow" under the string. His first ques- 
tion was, ' ' whar is dat flat-nosed kidney^f ooted 
niggah?" tlethen drew a British bull dog, Calibre 
38, and seemed eager for the fray. 

In about an hour Jack Badness, with his friend 
Spotted Buck Sweezy, came leisurely up the 
mountain. The news had sprea d, and people were 
there from Rutherfordton, Shelby, Marion, Mor- 
ganton and Forest City to witness the encounter. 

The vaunting Bomar began to show signs of 
agitation as Col. Jack Badness pulled an eight- 
inch "cap-and-ball" six-shooter. 

The distance, twenty paces, ^ was measured and 
the principals told to take their positions. Henry 
Houser, of Grassy Branch, was to giye the 
word c'ommand, and stepping forward, said: 
"Grentlemen, are you ready?" 'T is," came the 
defiant answer of Jack Badness, but Bomar 
gasped, and the words he tried to .utter seemed 
to die away in the i^afters <of his mouth. . His 
kne^ wer(3! knocking and ; his -teeth chattering, 
whife his face took on the blue gray hue, that 
?al ways betrays agitation in the negro. 
^ Henry . Houser continued : ' 'Attention ! .At 
the <woi:d c;ne, raise your pistols. At the word 
two, takejiim." At 'the word three, fire." J. Dud-^ 
ley Bomar was 'sb;agitated that all he knew was,: 
he heard t lie woxd fire. sHe pressed the trigger of 
his pistol: fuhd a roarshowed he had commenced 
the fray. ' But i his ball : missed his adversary at 
least twen :y five feet, and went into an upper 
story of the famous castle Owens; knocking the 
tail fieathers olltof an eight day clock. Biscre- 
tion then ^:ot the better part of valor, and hie fled 
incontinently.: Then Badness started in swift 
pursuit, firing his eight inch navy. at every jump. 
Several pin e boughs if ell around the fleeing Bo- 
mar, but to this day no onekno'Ws the extent' of 

36 A History of Amos Owens' Life. 

his injuries. He never came back, and two weeks 
later Jack Badness had captured the widow with 
$40, and now has an oyster, sardine and cider 
saloon on historic Cherry Mountain. His wife 
still has one eye, and still cooks and takes in 
washing. But she and that $40 have parted com- 


Though this historic place is in twelve miles of 
Rutherfordton twenty-five miles of Shelby, both 
good law abiding towns, by common consent this 
has, until very recently, been no man's land as 
far as the enforcement of law is concerned. Amos 
Owens has repeatedly heard the ornate charges 
of the judge to the jury and grand jury where the 
resonant language of his honor would recite: 
"The majesty of the law stands on eternal vigil 
at the threshold of every home, and the dweller 
in the lowly hovel as well as the palace comes 
alike under her beneficent protection." Amos 
knew, as far as his own expenience was concern- 
ed, that he could be maltreated, his property de- 
stroyed, and no legel redress for him in his rights 
of person or property. On the other hand, until 
very recently, whoever went there to engage in 
the festivities took his life in his hand, and had 
to be quick-triggered to command respect. 

Boys and girls have performed acts of vandal- 
ism at this place, that would have disgraced the 
wild orgies of a negro festival, and nobody pur- 

Such treatment has done much to determine 
his hitherto lawless character. While tliis writer 
is not upholding the whiskey traffic or manufac- 
ture, legal or otherwise, it seems that Amos has, 
in many instances, been a peculiar object of per- 
secution by the red-legged grass-hopper. 

While he has defiantly and persistently violated 

A History of Amos Owens' Life. 37 

the revenue laws, in the hackneyed language of 
the present ' 'there are others. " 

Many persons by an unfortunate combination of 
circumstar.ces, become outlaws^ that no amount 
of prevemion and coercion can reclaim, and 
Amos is a man of this character. 

We left him on his second return from Sing 
Sing, defiant and impenitent. The tall spectral 
pines stood on eternal vigil near the defile where 
his distillery was in operation, the flickering 
lights of his furnace were shed on the eternal 
rock-ribbed heights of his famous mountain, and 
his work pursued the noiseless tenor of its way. 
We can but think, that at times, when "far from 
the maddening crowd's ignoble strife, with none to 
see his ' 'deeds of darkness" but God and the rad- 
iant stars E'.bove, his bitter nature would assert 
itself and a voiceless cry would go out from his 
heart in the silent watches of the night; but if so, 
he suffered and gave no sign. The minister would 
rise in his pulpit, wax eloquent in the recital of 
the sins of Amos Owens against God and against 
society, bii fc did one ever go and administer tv^ords 
of ])rother]y reproof? The staid church member 
would invt igh against the evils of intemperance, 
and then h ave some vagabond to go and see if 
"Old Amoi Owens" would not send him two gal- 
lons to tak 3 the bad taste out of his mouth. The 
young mai, who parted his hair in the middle 
and taughi a class in Sunday School, Would go 
up in cher] y time, get drunk as the Pied Piper of 
Hamelin, 1 >reak dishes, knock-down doors^ smash 
windows, i urn over the milk and swear like a 
seaman; ar d then say it was all the fault of old 
Amos Owe as: The adoring uncles, cousins, aunts 
and parents would say it was even so, smd pray 
the good LDrd to bless the labors of the red-legged 
grass-hopper. Then would it occur to this hunt- 
ed areh-bl3ckader that "man's inhumanity to 

38 A History of Amos Owens' hiFm 

man makes countless millions mourn." 

Soon the avenger was again on his track, for as 
he rode through the state of ' 'Pitchfork Ben Till- 
man," he was held up near Gaffney, and his fine 
horse, new wagon, and a barrel of contraband, 
confiscated. He was placed behind the bars of 
the Columbia jail, and was later tried and sen- 
tenced to a term of six month's imprisonment and 
a fine of one hundred dollars imposed. Being 
allowed to name his prison he chose Yorkville, 
South Carolina. Here an incident occurred that 
showed his courage, sense of gratitude, and devo- 
tion to friends. Men of deep-seated convictions 
and great firmness are almost invariably bitter 
enemies and ardent friends. 

Sheriff Grienn of York county was a man of hu- 
mane and generous impulses, and by his kindness 
won the undying friendship of Amos. Qn ope 
occasion three desperate negroes resolved in malt- 
ing a break for liberty. Jumping on the Sheriff 
while alone, they would have soon taken his life, 
for the brutal instinct of a savage shows no mercy 
to a fallen foe. Amos and a man from Catawba 
county, of this state, came to the relief of the 
brave oflicer, and the blows of our stalwart hero 
went with the force of a catapult. One giant fell 
at his first blow, and his comrade and the ex- 
hausted sheriff entertained the other who was 
also an Ethiopian Hercules. The daring leader 
of the three was yet on foot, and with his firm 
visage, broad shoulders, and corded muscles, de- 
velop zd in a turpentine orchard "pulling boxes," 
was not to be despised. Towering six ieet two, 
and weighing 205, he felt that he could use up all 
opposition. He let out a terrific right at our hero 
which was nimbly dodged. Then with a left that 
would have won the admiration of Col. John L. 
Sullivan, Amos dropped the colored son of Anak 
senseless to the floor. The sheriff had now recov- 

A History of Amos Owens' Life. 39 

ered, and ^vith the li sip of the man from Catawba, 
the other two were secured. The Sheriff was too 
generous to let such conduct on the part of our 
hero and his confederate go unrewarded. Except 
nominally, they were free men, and carried the 
■prison keyM. Amos was the Joseph of the prison, 
but unlike the Joseph of inspiration, he was not 
an interpreter of dreams. 

Certain it is however, that ever after during his 
incarcerati Dii, he had a whiff every morning of 
the medical preparation known as peach and 
honey, anc on the morning after their heroic ad- 
venture, h 3 and his campanion were the recipient 
of a pound cake, which, to use his own quaint ex- 
preysion, was "bigger'n a bosses head." At the 
end of five months he was released, and one hun- 
dred dollars extra were paid into his hand. To 
this day h( ■. i^ touched by this act of benevolence, 
and the hi.mane treatment accorded him here is 
like the sjiadow of a great reck in a weary land 
in his vari(3d and melancholly experience. 

He further gives an amusing experience with 
bee J, durii.g this period of incarceration. 

All mouitain men have bees, and are expert in 
their management. On^ day Amos heard the 
:wai'ning wliirr, and notified the sheriff's wife. 
She sent fcr that official., but he was busy in the 
office, and sent word to let Amos Owens hive the 

The bees had on full war-paint and charged a 
passing mi lister, and tasted the lovely complexion 
of the beai.tif ul belle of the ball who was also 
passing. Her shrieks brought out a policeman 
with blue coat and button, but they respected not 
his badge ctf office. A "sissy" looking dude was 
•riding by en a thorough bred, and the the bees 
fired at thi^ horse and rider hj file and then by 
volley. T]ie dude being unhorsed, lifted up his 
voice and said he WA^ stabbed, but the bees heed- 

40 A HisTOKY OF Amos Owens' LifbI 

ed not his signal of distress. Then Amos advan- 
ced, and to use his expression, "the pickets fired 
and run in." Like Grant, he moved immediately 
on their works, and demanded unconditional sur- 
render. They charged him but what cared he for 
a few upstart Italian bees, when he had never 
been vanguished by Uncle Sam, and his legions 
of red-legged grass-hoppers? 

The bees rose and took to flight, but he camped 
on their trail. They settled in a big oak 30 feet 
from the ground, but he built a high scaffold. He 
hived ever mother's son of them, brought them 
back, a distance of 400 yards, and deposited the 
hive in the colony, singing, in the meantime; 
"God Save the Queen." 


On his discharge he went home, and as his still 
was destroyed, he bought another outfit. The or- 
der was, on with the dance, and for three years 
the work boomed serenely on, with no revenue in- 
terference to molest or to make afraid. Besides 
his calling as maker and dispenser of bounces he 
resolved to build a kind of tower, or observatory, 
Reference has before been made to the glorious 
view from this eminence, and our hero set himself 
to work to build this towering edifice which was 
to be several stories in height, and to be provided 
with up-to-date opera glasses, field glasses and a 
powerful telescope for the use of tourists and sci- 
entific men. Like the sweet singer of captive Is- 
rael he prepared his material and like the sweet 
singer he was not allowed to build. 

It is here worthy of mention, that in the com- 
plex character of our hero, there is a strange con- 
tradiction of terms. While a difiant blockader 
that no amount of punishment could chasten and 
subdue, he yet shows some of the generous attri- 
butes of a great nature. In his heroic defense of 

A HisTOEY OF Amos Owens' Life. 41 

Sheriff Glenn at Yorkville jail, while he escaped 
unscathed, he boldly imperiled his life and limb, 
showing the almost divine character portrayed in 
Revelation: "Greater love hath no man than this 
that a man shonld lay down his life for his 
friend. " 

Now we see him, an unlettered man who does 
not know the lost pleaides from Col. Henry Wat- 
terson's "Star-eyed goddess of Reform, " preparing 
a temple in the wilderness for the patronage of 
science, a nd for the comfort and convenience of 
the people that have calumniated and betrayed 
him; erecting a place of rest and enjoyment, plac- 
ing the enchanting grandsur of ' 'The Land of the 
Sky" in the range of every one's vision who will 
sweep the grand panorama with these auxiliaries 
of science. 

We are reminded of the saying of Jesus of Naz- 
areth that sinners and publicans shall enter the 
kingdom of the Lord before the self-righteous 
Pharisee, and of the sweet but sad couplet from 
the "Quaker Poet": 

' 'In the hereafter, angels may 

Roll the stone from its grave away. " 


Again he had an invasion from the cohorts of 
the red-legged grass hopper, and was taken to 
Asheville to again sit on the mourner's bench be- 
fore Judge Dick. It is here worthy of remark, 
thai3 with all his fierce hatred of the revenue offi- 
cers, he never resisted arrest. He therefore was as 
usual like a sheep before its shearers, but had his 
teamster to load up with "taters," Asheville was 
still a great market for taters, and the deal re- 
sulted in a sale of "20 bushels and 40 gallons." 
His still was again destroyed but everything was 
not found. Again did Judge Dick impose a term 
of twelve months imprisoment, a fine of one hun- 

43 A History of Amos Owens' Life. 

dred dollars and a scathing- rebuke. Again did 
Amos gaze at the whole judiciary with mingled 
scorn and defiance, and gleefully hop ' 'onto" the 
black moriah that conveyed him to the bastile, 
preparatory to going for a third visit to Sing Sing. 
The officials of that famed institution of learning 
tendered the glad hand, and joy was uiiconfined. 
As the conductor announced the station, our hero 
cackled with ungodly glee and yelled out: "One 
year for rest and refreshments." The superin- 
tendent said: Amos, I knew you would not disap- 
point us. Others have said that the memory of 
the venerable delegate from North Carolina 
would henceforth be: "Like the touch of a hand 
that is vanished, And a voice that forever is 
stilled," but I said, "You don't know Amos." 

The old offender with anger in his eye and re- 
proach in his tones, said: "What have I ever done 
to cause any one to doubt my loyalty to this insti- 
tution? Did I not graduate here, and did I not 
tell you and your minions I was coming back to 
take a post-graduate course? If I ever hear 
another doubt expressed, I'll confer my patronage 
on some other institution. This is not the only 
"pen" in the world, and there are others that 
would be glad to have m_e. " It will be observed 
that Amos uses good language for an unlettered 
man. No one to converse with him, would con- 
sider that he is not a man of scholarship. He 
served his dreary sentence, again getting off 
thirty days for good behavior and paying his fine 
of one hundred dollars by thirty days labor. So, 
at the end of twelve months he bought a new 
"still" and went, even as the dog feturneth to his 
vomit, to his old vocation. In all he has had nine 
distilling out-fits destroyed, and has served three 
terms in the penitentiary. A reaction took place, 
and for a time he had respite from his persecu- 
tions. But the work went bravely on, and his 

A HisTOEY OF Amos O weirs'' Life. 43 

whiskey, brandy and bonnce was still a legal 
tender in JSTorth Carolina. 


About this time another Richmond appeared in 
the field, and his scene of operations was near 
classic Cherry Mountain. Alternately, he was a 
maker of moonshine, and a red-legged grass-hop- 
per. When a maker of contraband he was like a 
bold buccaneer of the Spanish main, and he had 
many bloody encounters. He was a Hercules in 
strength and stature, and shot to kill. He led a 
lawless life, and while a generous man to those he 
liked, was a vindictive and uncompromising foe. 
He kept up a trade between North and South 
Carolina, and shot and maimed several parties in 
personal encounters, and finally the state of South 
Carolina became too hot to be comfortable. He 
was imprisoned several times, but by the aid of 
confederates, and fertility of resources, he always 
managed to escape. Like Mark Twain's war ex- 
perience, he "had fought bn both sides," and the 
moonshiners never forgave him for being a red- 
legged grass-hopper, and the marshals despised 
.him^ for being a dealer in contraband whiskey. 
The plot thickened, and he had so many personal 
difiiculties that he resorted to deeds of violence 
that caused a price to be placed on his head. He 
armed himself, and in the defiles of Cherry Moun- 
tain defied the conservators of law and order. His 
reti ea;t was discovered, and a posse led by a vete- 
ran red-legged grass-hopper, invaded his lair. 
"Slipping up on him," in mountain parlance, the 
pos^ie enjoined him to surrender. He turned at 
bay, threw his rifle to his face, and whistled a 
bullet through the hair of the man he most in- 
tensely hated on earth — the reviled publican or 
red-legged grass-hopper. His shot was answered 
by a volley from the Winchesters, shot-guns and 

44 A HiSTOKY OF Amos Owens' Life. 

revolvers of his hunters. He fell bleeding from 
half a dozen wounds, but with fierce oaths, tried 
to again "pump lead" with his Winchester. He 
was disarmed and carried to prison. His leg was 
shattered at the thigh by a ball from a 44 Win- 
chester, three pistol balls had struck him and two 
charges of No. 4 shot were in his body. Every 
one thought he would die, but, as usual, every 
one was mistaken. He languished in jail till 
court, when the Judge in compassion for his ter- 
rible wounds, gave him the privilege of leaving 
the state. He took the offer, and speedily absent- 
ed himself from North Carolina society. With 
all his faults he was a generous, hospitable fellow, 
and a warm friend of the writer. His people still 
live in the counties of Rutherford and Cleveland, 
and are among the most honored citizens of both 


Before we give the final chapter in the life and 
public serrices of Amos Owens, brief notice shall 
be taken of an ex-blockader who has reformed 
and shows symptoms of engaging in the minisitry. 
He was a maker of whiskey, a salesman of the 
same, and feared neither God nor regarded man. 
To him the red-legged grass-hopper also became a 
burden, and on more than one occasion he trod 
the wine-press of tribulation, and ' 'played check- 
ers with his nose upon the prison bars." At 
length his own familiar friends became his ene- 
mies, and he and his brother-in-law tried conclu- 
sions in which a pistol, a sling shot, and a rock 
all figured. The hero of this sketch pulled for 
greener fields and pastures new, but the villians 
still pursued him. He was leading a very exem- 
plary life at Polkville in Cleveland county, when 
a Rutherford constable, with the power of ap- 
parently, the entire county at his back, told the 

A HisTOEY OF Amos Owens' Life. 45 

offender to put up his liands. This he did, and a 
search of his pockets revealed nothing more dead- 
ly than a small plow- wrench. He was placed un- 
der heavy bond, with orders to report at Cherry 
Mountain on a day and d^te provided. The un- 
fortunate came to this writer and said that our 
services were desired as attorney in his behalf. 
He was told that Ye scribe was not a lawyer, but 
tried to be an honest man. He was. asked why 
we were taken for a lawyer. He said: "a man 
who contested everything, conceded nothing and 
talked by the hour was a lawyer by nature, 
instinct and profession." We reported at the 
temple of justice on Cherry Mountain, one mile 
from Castle Owens, and found every-body in that 
region was a partisan, on one side or the other. 
The learned magistrate looked at me, and asked 
if I had a license to practice law. He was informed 
that some men have a roving commission and can 
practice where they please. The trial proceeded, 
and it was racy. When we cross-examined a 
woman in the case, she invariably used her last 
and strongest argument — tears. Finally every- 
thing wept, but the "lawyer," his client and the 
mules that furnished our means of transportation 
to the trial. The magistrate looked wise, said it 
was a "haynous" offense with which my client 
was charged. He gave it as his opinion that my 
client should be hung, and called on him to stand 
up and receive the death sentence. He was in- 
formed that the defendant should not hang, or if 
he did, I'd see that the other fellow was hung too. 
He finally released the defendant who came home, 
took the pledge, and now wants to preach, but 
can't read. 


We now come to the last time Amos Owens was 
called to appear before a tribunal for violation of 

46 A HiSTOEY OF Amos Owens' Life. 

the revenue laws. 

In 1890 he was arrested, and taken before Judge 
Dick in Charlotte, 'N. C. His head was now white 
as the driven snow, and the tender heart of Judge 
Dick was touched with pity. Tears rose to his 
kindly eyes, for the official was a man of generous 
and humane impulses. In a voice vibrant with 
emotion, he said: "Amos Owens, stand up. 
Three times you have worn the garb of a convict, 
and time and again have you been fined and im- 
prisoned. You are said to be a man of noble im- 
pulses and many worthy traits of character. 
Your gray hairs should be a crown of glory in- 
stead of a badge of infamy. Amos, you and I are 
on the shady side of the hill of life, and soon 
shall be called from time to eternity. Why do 
you live the life of an Ishmael with your hand 
raised against the majesty of tlie law and the 
hand of organized society against you^^ Amos, I 
can but believe there are deep and hidden well- 
springs of good in your nature, and ere I am 
called to the bar of a just God, I shall appeal to 
the generosity of your better nature. Amos, as 
man speaks to man, will you cease to violate the 
laws of you country and to be an out-cast of so- 
cietyf An intense hush pervaded the court 
room, for never before had -any appeal been made 
to the generous nature of this ancient transgres- 

Then something happened that the shock of 
battle, the groans and shrieks of dying comrades, 
the privations of army prison life and the frown- 
ing walls of Sing Sing has failed to call forth. 

The hardened look of defiance faded from his 
face, tears welled to his eyes, his rugged frame 
shook with feeling. In a voice choking with emo- 
tion he said; "Judge, I'll— try." The effect was 
electrical. All the judicial dignity in the State 
could not have restrained the rapturous yell that 

A History of Amos Owens' Life. 47 

rose from the audience, for the house was packed 
to everflowing. The sight of the audacious moon- 
shiner who had hitherto seemed to have a de- 
moniac spirit that no man could tame, weeping, 
with contrition at the bar of Justice, and the 
dignified judge in tears; convinced all present 
that ' 'a touch of nature makes us all wondrous 

The lawyers present, the representatives of the 
press, and many others, including a red legged- 
grass hopper, grasped his hand in welcome. Then 
and thereupon the lawyers of Shelby, Charlotte 
and Rutherfordton "chipped in" and bought him 
a fine beaver and a pair of gold-baned eye-glasses. 
His storm-rent and battle scarred visage took on a 
softer light than ever before, and he went his way, 
it is hoped, to sin no more. 

Judge Dick has been called to his record, and 
Amos venerates his memory. Pretty much all his 
original enemies have likewise passed over the 
river, and he is now enthroned at Cherry Moun- 
tain — listening at the wind wailing through his 
forest pines, aud looking with pride on his one 
thousand Inroad acres. With the exception of 
George Vanderbilt, he is the only man that owns 
an entire mountain in the State. While the red- 
legged grass-hopper has ceased to be a burden, his 
head flourishes like the almond tree, those that 
look out of the window are becoming darkened, 
and the strong man begins to tremble. Let us 
hope, that when the pitcher is broken at the 
fountain and the golden cord be loosened, when 
the mourners go about the streets ; that he shall 
b3 with the redeemed around the great white 
throne. Should he be with that favored multi- 
tude, it can certainly apply to his case: "These 
are they who came up through great tribulations. " 
Whatever may be his fate in eternity, he is cer- 
tainly the most wonderful blockader, quick or 

48 A HisTOEY OF Amos Oweks' Life. 

dead, and it can be said of him as of Napoleon, the 
Great, "The man withont a model and without a 


Recently, signs have been discovered that this 
mountain is fall of valuable mineral. Three- 
fourths of the world's supply of mica is found in 
North Carolina, and a mine is being worked here 
that contains this mineral in paying quantities. 
The forest wealth of this mountain, were it near 
a good market, would be the means of an im- 
mense fortune to some shifty up-to-date investor. 
This State has more varieties of timber than the 
same area anywhere else on earth, and every kind 
of tree is found here that grows in the State ex- 
cept about three species that abound in the tide- 
water region. It is, besides, the natural home of 
many medicinal herbs, among others the famous 
ginseng or "Sang" as it is called in mountain par- 
lance. All who have ever read ' 'The Sang Dig- 
ger" by Amelia Rino Chandler, know that the 
ginseng root has great commercial value. The 
best customers are the ' 'heathen Chinese, " who 
use it in their Joss houses in burning incense, and 
also for medical properties. Gold has b9en found 
on this mountain, also silver and lead. There is 
a well-founded tradition that one of the With- 
rows in the shooting matches popular in his day 
and generation, always got his lead from here, 
but would never tell any one the location of his 
mine. The secret perished with him, but he re- 
vealed to some confidential friends, that it was 
somewhere on Cherry Mountain. 

A few years since, a firm in Germany discover- 
ed that monazite, a yellow sand found here, has 
a great commercial value. It was used to gener- 
ate an incandescent light, being like mica, im- 
perious to ordinary heat. The first and most 

A HisTOEY OP Amos Owens' Life. 49 

valuable mine of monazite was located on Cherry 
Mountain, and this industry made L. A. Gettys, 
then, a struggling and obscure school teacher, a 
capitalist. For beautiful wild flowers this place 
is not surpassed on earth, and mention has been 
before made of the grand panorama of scenery 
that unfolds itself before your gaze. The crest of 
this mountain being in the Iso-Thermal belt, 
peaches, apples, grapes, and other fruit crops are 
unfailing, as they are above the frost-line. Were 
a good road built to the top of this mountain, a 
nice boulevard or driveway on top, an up to date 
hotel and observatory, this would be an ideal re- 
sort. In the sultry summer season it would be a 
welcome retreat for the southerner who wishes 
surcease from heat, malaria and mosquitoes, 
while it would, also, be a delightful winter resort 
for those who wish to escape the rigors of a win- 
ter in more northern climes. The present owner 
of Cherry Mountain, as befere stated, is unletter- 
ed, and in his circumscribed sphere, could see no 
way under heaven or among men to make a living 
except to still and make bounce. He reverently 
believed that he should be allowed to make free 
whiskey, and regarded the acts of the government 
as a species of "taxation without representation." 
Like the bold barons that came from Runnymede, 
and at the point of the sword, forced the haugh- 
ty King John who bore the scepter of power and 
woi-e the purple of authority, to grant the charter 
of human rights, he has alone tried to resist the 
government, in the zeal worthy of a better cause. 
In the light of successful achievement, we can 
honor our forefathers for resisting a tax on tea 
and glass, which was levied to meet expenses of a 
war for our interest, but when it comes to Red- 
mond, Amos Owens and others of that ilk raising 
the flag of revolt— why that is altogether a differ- 
ent matter. 

So A History OF Amos Owen's' hml 

While whiskey is evidently a curse, is it not 
as blighting in its effects on society, if made by k 
trust of steam distilleries and the tax evaded as 
for Amos Owens to make a few gallons by hand 
and decline to pay the revenue? Such 'is the rea- 
soning of this man of such a wonderful experience 
and such is the fair verdict, in practice justice or 


This work was written by one who never saw a 
moonshine distillery, and who deplores the moon- 
shiner's persistence in their precarious calling. 

The important datas- were given by Amos 
Owens, by Dr. Thomas Carson of Bostic, J. C. El- 
liott of Polkville and other men of probity and 
character. At the request of Amos Owens, him- 
self, the work was written and is hereby offered 
to the public. It would have been just as easy to 
picture him as the leader of a ferocious banditti 
who revelled in -scenes of blood. It would have 
been just as easy to say that as a land-pirate he 
kidnapped beautiful maidens, and extorted heavy 
ransoms for their deliverance. The flights of 
fancy might also have conjured a spider-legged 
dude of twenty-three summers, who, with a signal 
service tin shield under his lapeL a dark lantern 
in one hand a cast barrelled swamp angel in the 
other, rushed on Amos Owens and one hundred 
beetle-browed confederates, and bellowed at them 
to surrender in the name of the State. The same 
process could have evolved a beautiful maiden of 
"nineteen, " wild-eyed, haggard and dishevelled, 
who rushed before the foot-lights and shrieked: 
"Oh, Sirs, spare him fori love him." Candor 
compels the statement that nothing so tragical 
ever occurred in the experience of this bold block- 
ader. He is blood-guiltless as far as officers are 
concerned, but as a sharp shooter in the ranks of 

A HisTOEY OF Amos Owens' Life.' 51 

the Confederacy, he may have slain some of the 
opposing foemen. 


In all well-regulated novels the hero has to 
steal his bride, and is pursued by her irate father 
and about five hundred horsemen. 

They camp three days on the trail of the fugi- 
tives, the old man and his retinue swearing they 
are going to bathe their hands in gore. 

On the fourth day they overhaul the fleeing 
pair, who are both mounted on the same "richly 
caparisaned steed," and the hunted Lochinar 
turns at bay. After a fierce struggle, in which 
about seventy-five of the attacking party bites the 
dust, the facts develop that the couple were mar- 
ried not two hours since by a wandering justice 
of the peace, and the marriage certificate is placed 
in evidence. By strawberry marks and infantile 
attire, the bride-groom proves his lineage on one 
side from a sored-eye wandering minstrel of an 
Italian count, and on the other from a pig-sticker 
of Chicago. 

These credentials are satisfactory, and the old 
ma 11 knt)ws his son-in-law is no plebian, but a high 
roller. They go back to his palace and for six 
weeks there is a round of merry-making and war 


Amos Owens was married once and but once, to 
Miss May Sweezy. When his time came to marry 
he got on his horse, "Old Hickory" and rode over 
to old man Sweezy 's. The old man was worming 
and suckering tobacco, and on seeing Amos, got 
off the original observation. ' 'Light and look at 
yer saddle-" "I hain't got time," said Amos, 
"wharisMary Ann?" "She has gone to peel 
some walnuts to dye some cloth, what's up?" 

52 A History op Amos Owens' Life. 

' 'Oh, nothing, particular, " said Amos, we thought 
we'd marry this evening." "Marry! the devil!" 
Quoth the old man, pretending as is usual under 
such conditions, to be greatly surprised. "No I 
just wanted his daughter, " quoth the irrepressible 
Amos, ' 'arid had no idea of marrying the whole 
family. " 

The old man grinned, humped himself over a 
tobacco plant, and Amos hunted up the future 
partner of his joys and sorrows. She was found, 
bare-headed and bare-footed, coming with a bas- 
ket of walnut hulls. This she delivered, and 
making no other changes in her toilet except to 
put on her home made shoes and ' 'wagon cover" 
bonnet, she gayly mounted on old Hickory behind 
Amos. They hunted up a justice of the peace and 
stated their business. He soon pronounced the 
ceremony, and was then and there tendered a 
coon-skin and a quart bottle of brandy. He 
threw the coon-skin on the floor and then and 
there took an observation of the heavens over the 
end of that bottle. Amos brought her to his 
three story house, which was not three stories high 
but three stories long, and she that evening milk- 
ed the cow and set a hen, while Amos made an ox- 
yoke and repaired his wagon harness. That is all 
there is in the way of romance about his marriage, 
and it is to be observed that he has been kind to 
his family and through all his privations and vic- 
issitudes, she has been a help-meet true as steal. 

Sketches and cuts of this remarkable man have 
appeared from time to time in Police Gazette, 
Chicago Elade, Pennsylvania Grit, Charlotte Ob- 
server, Cleveland Star, Morganton Herald, Shel- 
by Aurora and other periodicals and publications, 
and as the author first "dug him up," so to speak, 
he now offers to the public the inclosed matter in 
book form. As the hero has kept no diary, many 
interesting facts are omitted. The work is closed, 

■ A History of Amos Owens' Life. 53 

in the hope that the reader will be at least enter- 



In connection with the history of this notorious 
blockader, notice will be taken of another cele- 
brated character, likewise a mountaineer. He is 
known to profane history as Jerry Bowlin, and is 
the greatest exponent, living or dead, of ' 'squatter 
soverignty. " Like Amos Owens he is unlettered, 
and like him in other respects, he is well nigh re- 
doubtable. His age is about seventy-five years, 
and in person he is strong, rugged, and of medium 
height. His hair is dark his eyes are gray, while 
his firmly compressed mouth and resolute chin, 
indicate great determination. 

On the corner of the counties of Rutherford, 
Burke and McDowell, he staked a claim, so long 
since that the memory of man runneth not back to 
the contrary. He married a wife at an early age, 
and, in a pine pole ' 'sway-backed" cabin, under- 
took to rear a family. Eor their meagre subsist- 
ence they planted a patch of corn, raised a small 
garden every year, hunted squirrels, pulled tan- 
back, and hunted herbs of a commercial value. 

At length .' 'pay dirt" was found in the vicinity, 
and the syndicate known as the Golden Valley 
Mining Company was organized and began opera- 
tion. The land was what is called speculation 
land, and they bought up a large boundary. In 
this iDOundary, was the modest mansion of Jerry 
Bowlin, with the small clearing he had opened. 
Here was a clash of interests, and the haughty re- 
presentative of the corporation told Jerry to ab- 
squatulate. But Jerry took another hitch at his 
belt, tightened his coon-skin cap on his head, and 
told them he was there for the season. Scare- 

54 A History of Amos Oweists' Life. 

liead notices with heavy penalties were posted and 
read in his hearing, but Jerry took a fresh nip of 
long green, and pursued the even terror of his way. 
The writ of ejectment was served by the sheriff, 
but Jerry observed that he had always noticed 
that lightning in the north was a mighty good 
sign of rain. The sheriff came with the regula- 
tion posse of sixteen stalwart men, but found 
nothing to throw out of the house but a maul and 
wedge. Not a bed, cooking utensil, or article of 
apparel was in sight, Jerry again remarked that 
lightning in the north was a ' 'shore" sign of rain, 
getting out his "twist" meantime, and taking a 
very consoling nip of long green. That night 
there was a sound of revelry in his hails, and the 
flickering light of pine knots shone over fair wo- 
men and brave men, while beds stood in their ac- 
customed places, raiment for male and female 
dangled from wooden pins in the wall, while the 
savory smell of flrying pork rose from a "spider," 
and corn bread "ripened" in the skillet. The 
next morning he met a representative of the syn- 
dicate, that informed him with some asperity that 
he had to vambose the ranch — that money was no 
object. That they had money to burn, and would 
dislodge him if it cost one hundred thousand dol- 
lars. He meditated for five minutes, and remark- 
ed that he had been noticing the weather nearly 
seventy years, and never saw it fail to rain when 
it lightened in the north. The dignitary of a 
syndicate said when their company tried to 
"raise" a man from their territory they "raised" 
him whether it lightened at all or not; and they 
each went his way. The next morning the Sher- 
iff of Rutherford county again reported with his 
regulation posse of sixteen brawny men, at the 
domicle of Jerry. The latter came out, bowed 
gracefuly, and remarked: "Gentlemen, I may 
have never told you before, but I have taken per- 

Nortfi Carolina Sfafe Library 

A History of Amos Owens' Life. 55 

tickler notice tliat when it lightens in the north — 
The Sheriff here stuck a gun in his face, and 
said: You old whelp, where are your goods? Yes- 
terday you had nothing to throw out but a maul 
and wedge, and last night your house was full 
up, of beds, clothing, and cooking utensils, and 
you were having a shin-dig. Now I'am going to 
pull down ' 'your durned old house. " The house 
was pulled down, and not a woman, child, article 
of clothing or cooking utensil was visible. The 
Sheriff left, and the syndicate rejoiced. But the 
next night the sound of revelry was again heard, 
and some members of the syndicate went down to 
reconnoiter. They found the house up and in tact 
but still sway-backed, the beds and clothing 
in their places. Pork and Squirrel frying, and 
Jerry leading a break-down. They slunk back to 
their places, feeling that syndicates sometimes 
met their match. On the next morning Jerry 
passed the mining shaft with his long rifle on his 
shoulder, and remarked: "If you see the Sheriff, 
I wish you'd tell him I said it is a good sign of 
rain to see it lighten in the north." 



— .-«5(}Vil.i-_ 

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White, M. L. 

A history of the life of Amos Owens, the 

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A history of the life of Amos 
Owens, the noted blockader. of 

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A history of the life of Amos Owens, the 
noted blockader, of Cherry Mountain, 
N. C.